Become a Transportation Planner: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a transportation planner. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in the transportation field.

Should I Become a Transportation Planner?

Transportation planners analyze city and regional transportation systems for usability and economic impact, recommend policies, and develop plans to address potential issues. Municipalities or agencies that have been contracted to plan a specific geographic area are typical employers in this field. Projects may include highway planning, public transportation route assessments, land use issues, urban design projects and bicycle- or pedestrian-related issues. The job may include presenting reports and proposals to municipal leaders and the general public.

Though an advanced education is often needed to get started in this field, transportation planners tend to make a higher-than-average yearly salary. These professionals often have to work effectively within groups of people, ranging from politicians to community members. They may have to work late hours or on weekends to provide presentations or meet deadlines.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree minimum, master's degree preferred
Degree Field(s) Transportation engineering, urban planning or similar field
Licensure and/or Certification Professional engineering (PE) licensure or voluntary certification may be preferred
Key Skills Project management, oral and written communications, research, documentation and reporting, analytical ability, leadership; proficiency in computer programs including TransCad transportation planning software, ESRI ArcGIS geographic mapping and analysis software, CUBE/TP+ traffic microsimulation software
Salary (2014) $66,940 (median for urban and regional planners)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

Completion of a bachelor's degree program can qualify individuals for some entry-level jobs, although employers generally prefer a master's degree. No strict undergraduate requirements exist for aspiring transportation planners, however certain bachelor's programs are recommended for master's prerequisite coursework. Relevant programs of study include civil engineering, urban and regional planning, economics and geography. Additional coursework in architecture, ecology and political science can be beneficial.

Step 2: Complete a Master's Degree Program

Many colleges and universities offer graduate transportation planning degree programs, although some may offer transportation as a concentration within a broader engineering or urban and regional planning curriculum. Common courses include environmental impact, statistical modeling, traffic management, transportation systems analysis, behavior analysis and urban forecasting. Students may also take part in policy research opportunities presented to the university by government agencies and private businesses.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Aspiring transportation planners can gather practical experience while still in school by participating in an internship. Students advanced in bachelor's programs may take part in transportation planning internships; however, employers often prefer that students be enrolled in a relevant master's degree program. Common duties of transportation planning interns may include researching and writing grant proposals, drawing maps and planning reports. Additionally, interns can benefit from the training received by experienced industry professionals, and may make valuable contacts within the professional community.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

While degree coursework and internships are a valuable base for aspiring transportation planners, three or more years of related work experience are typically required before advancing to the position and earning related licenses and certifications. Employers often look for experience in the fields of public administration, architecture, public policy or economic development.

Step 4: Earn Relevant Licensure and Certifications

Many employers hiring transportation planners prefer that applicants hold professional licensure and certifications related to transportation planning and engineering. A transportation planning professional may consider several options.

Members of the American Planning Association who have completed an approved degree program can test for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) credential. Individuals must have 2-3 years of professional planning experience and have completed a planning degree program accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board to be eligible to take the exam. AICP-certified transportation planners with eight years of experience can additionally test for the Certified Transportation Planner specialty credential.

The Transportation Professional Certification Board (TPCB) also offers a Professional Traffic Operations Engineer (PTOE) certification, which requires four years of professional experience and an engineering license. Both organizations require professionals take continuing education courses to maintain their certification.

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) offers a professional engineering (PE) licensing program. While requirements vary by state, recipients of the license must pass at least two exams and must typically complete a minimum of four years of work experience.

Next: View Schools

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?